Japan gives a muted welcome to spring

Japan declared the official opening of its cherry blossom season in Tokyo on Wednesday, although it will be a muted and less exuberant welcoming of spring than in previous years.

The Japan Meteorological Agency announced that the "someiyoshino" cherry tree in the grounds of Yasukuni Shrine that it uses every year to determine the start of cherry blossom season was 90 percent in bloom. The tree's pale pink flowers blossomed five days later than last year, the agency added.

Further north, in the hills around Morioka, larks were reportedly heard singing, the traditional indicator of the arrival of spring in that city.

There is little reason for festivities in Japan at the moment, however, as communities across the north of the country continue the clear-up of the devastation caused by the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and the tsunami that it triggered. Those natural disasters were made worse by the damage they caused to the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear reactor, which engineers are still trying to bring under control.

Combined, Japan's problems are playing havoc with its tourism industry.

Between March 11 and 31, an average of 3,400 foreign nationals arrived each day at Tokyo's Narita International Airport, down 75 percent from the same period last year. Similarly, the number of foreign arrivals at Osaka's Kansai International Airport came to 1,700 people a day between March 18 and 23, down more than 50 percent.

The decline in the number of tourists arriving in Japan has been made worse by the thousands of foreign residents who have opted to leave - either temporarily or on a more permanent basis. Many foreign governments, including the French and Germans, strongly advised their nationals to refrain from traveling to Japan or to leave entirely.
The Japan National Tourism Organization has been using its website - http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/ - to reassure travelers about conditions in the country, posting frequent updates from international organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, the World Health Organization and the International Air Transport Association.

In a statement, JNTO President Tadatoshi Mamiya admitted that the natural disasters have had "an enormous impact" on Japan's inbound tourism.

"While many areas in Japan remain unaffected by the disaster, they are also suffering from the sudden decrease in international visitors," he said. "We are deeply concerned that this will not only affect Japan's tourism industry directly, but also will have a negative impact on our industry partners around the world.

"JNTO is committed to provide timely information on the current situation in the travel industry and to the public through our we site," he added. "Once the situation in Japan stabilizes, we will strive to resume all promotional activities as soon as possible.

"We look forward to warmly welcoming our visitors in the very near future," Mamiya said.

In recent years, the government of Japan has set ambitious targets for inbound tourists. Last year, the tourism agency said it was aiming to attract 15 million tourists a year by 2013, more than double the 7.3 million foreign visitors to the country in 2006 and a sharp improvement on the 8.61 million arrivals recorded in 2010.

JR

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
life
Property
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Recruitment Consultant (Trainee), Finchley Central, London

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    Day In a Page

    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
    Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

    Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

    They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
    The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

    20 best days out for the summer holidays

    From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
    Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

    All the wood’s a stage

    Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
    Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

    Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

    Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
    Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

    Self-preservation society

    Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
    Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

    Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

    We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor